Jos Cools from Grobbendonk wears his heart on his sleeve. We noticed this a couple of times during our visit. This is a man with an opinion, and he knows what he talks about: "As the chairman of our club in Grobbendonk I was informed that Antwerp is nurturing the idea of racing in zones. If there is one thing we should do, it would be to give up on that one major advantage of our interprovincial releases. It is thanks to this interprovincial release that sprint pigeons in Antwerp constantly have to reorientate and find the right direction. With a zonal release, pigeons just have to following the main pack, which in turn favours fanciers that basket a lot of birds. A zonal race will be dictated by the teams with the most pigeons. This will be a serious disadvantage for the many fanciers with just five to ten pigeons, who will eventually give up", Jos explains. He set the tone for the rest of the interview: he does not beat around the bush, and that might be what pigeon racing needs today.
An unfortunate start to the season
Jos races in the sprint competition in the renowned Tienverbond Union, where he competes against some top class fanciers, including his good friends Dirk Van den Bulck and Staf Boeckmans.
Jos did not have a good start to the 2019 season. He was planning to race 4 old and 8 one year old racing cocks this year. Unfortunately, one of his old birds got caught by a bird of prey a few weeks before the start of the season. So he began the season with just three old birds, and yet he was victorious in his first week of racing, claiming a 1st Quiévrain of 464 pigeons with Primus BE15-6208035. And it was not Primus's first major achievement: when Jos won his title of 1st National Champion Sprint YBs KBDB, Primus was always the team's second nominated. And Primus continued to be a highly valued bird over the years. In 2018 for instance, he won five first prizes in the Tienverbond Union!
And Primus went on to win an 8th Quiévrain of 1,205 pigeons in week two. He was clearly ready for another great season of racing. However, the pigeons were released in bad weather the following week. Primus had a bad day, and he would only arrive home the following week. Jos promptly decided to transfer Primus to the breeding loft, because he did not want to take any chances.
And his transfer quickly proved to be quite a success, with the best young bird of 2019 being bred from Primus. "This young bird would sometimes struggle to enter the loft when he arrives home", Jos told us. "But I expect him to improve on that as as yearling. He is in fact my big favourite for 2020."
The sire of Primus is Chipring BE11-6268997. This cock won for instance:
4. 345 p. 5. 252 p. 6. 307 p. 6. 590 p. 9. 1,974 p. 8. 410 p.
And he was also co-winner of a title of 4th National Champion YBs KBDB in 2011. He stems in turn from Donkere Kweker BE07-6218897. This Donkere Kweker went straight to the breeding loft, where he would soon breed Bliksem and Chipring. Bliksem won wor instance two first prizes in the Tienverbond competition, and he was a 1st Ace Pigeon Quiévrain in 2014. The dam of Chipring is BE09-6293645, a hen that stems from the crossing of a cock from the best breeding pair of Staf Boeckmans and breeding hen Het Meeuwke, of Dirk Van den Bulck.
The dam of Primus is Superzus BE14-6090923. She became a 1st Ace Pigeon Noyon Grobbendonk 2014, having won the following prizes:
5. 2,695 p. 16. 2,384 p. 10. 3,205 p. 21. 1,599 p.
Superzus is a youngster of Jos's stock pair Miel x Octavia. Miel BE10-6252797 is a grandson of the famous Di Caprio of Leo Heremans, which now belongs to Dirk Van Dyck. Miel is also related to the line of Kannibaal of Dirk Van Dyck and of Goudhaantje of Rudi Diels.
Octavia BE12-6254608 was a very successful racing hen that developed into a top class breeding bird later on: she has bred several ace pigeons. Octavia on the other hand comes from Den 77, which is a great racing bird that in turn stems from a direct Staf Boeckmans (a crossing of Bart & Jurgen Geerinckx x Dirk Van den Bulck). The dam of Octavia, Klein Dirk, is a daughter of Olympiade 4000 of Dirk Van den Bulck.
Change of plans eventually lead to championship titles
The result of this transfer was that Jos's old birds' team was now down to two. Both these cocks were basketed for Quiévrain, which meant Jos's old birds could not win any points in the championships in Noyon.
But the yearlings did terrific in Noyon; it appears that this new generation of birds has quite a bit of potential:
1. Champion Tienverbond yearlings Noyon 1st + 2nd nominated 4. Champion Tienverbond yearlings Noyon 1st nominated
The two old birds did really well in Quiévrain by the way. These two cocks have been racing at a high level all season, and it led the following titles:
1. General Champion Tienverbond olds Quiévrain 1. Champion Tienverbond 1st + 2nd nominated 1. Champion Tienverbond 1st nominated
The new generation of young birds is showing to have plenty of potential as well. We already briefly talked about a youngster of Primus. But there is more: Jos also won a title of 3rd Ace Pigeon Tienverbond with BE19-6060204.
Hardly any losses
It was an excellent choice to have his remaining two old birds focus entirely on Quiévrain. It proved quite a successful strategy! And it is quite impressive for a fancier with so few birds in the team to still be one of the championship winners every season. Jos usually races 12 old and one year old racing cocks. This season however, he had just 10 pigeons at his disposal: 8 yearlings and 2 old birds.
His breeding loft is home to an additional 12 breeding pairs, which breed around 50 youngsters every season. And Jos Cools traditionally does not have many losses in his young birds' team, despite the many birds of prey in the area. The wooded environment makes it a lot easier for these bird of prey to hunt pigeons. "Luckily, we have many jackdaws living in the trees that surround our loft. They will make a lot of noise whenever they spot a bird of prey. And my pigeons know what that means: they will rush back inside as soon as they hear the jackdaws' calls", Jos explains.
Jos thinks the few losses at home or during training flights are thanks to the fact that he does not breed many birds. "We never have a large group of birds training at the same time, which means my birds will usually not hesitate to take off. When I visit a fancier with around 200 young birds, I often notice that many of them are making small circles around the loft instead of heading off. I don't think they get a lot of out of that, and they are not really learning to find direction either", says Jos. "And most of my fellow fanciers are not losing many birds either, as they do not tend to breed many pigeons.”
Jos Cools posing in front of his racing lofts, despite the weather. We have the section for a maximum of 12 widowers on the left.
The young birds' section, with access to the aviary, is on the right.
Remco, 3rd National Ace Pigeon sprint young birds KBDB 2018
Jos discovered a talented new racing cock last year with Remco. Remco was 3rd National Ace Pigeon Sprint YBs KBDB in 2018. Remco stems from the best bloodlines in Jos's collection.
Remco, 3rd Nat. Ace Pigeon Sprint KBDB 2018
The sire of Remco is a son of two national ace pigeons: Speedy and Superlady. The latter was a 6th National Ace Pigeon sprint YLs in 2014. Both these pigeons were stolen in 2017. The sire of Remco is a grandson of stock pair Miel x Octavia through Superlady.
The dam of Remco originates from a joint breeding with fellow fancier Dirk Van den Bulck.
"The best birds are no ugly ducklings"
And Jos concludes the interview with a clear message: the race results are the only true indicator for good quality pigeons. And that is why he selects pigeons solely based on their achievements. "A pigeon that fails to win a prize three weeks in a row will not stand a chance in this loft", he explains. "And the best birds are no ugly ducklings: a successful racing bird will usually look fairly good as well, he says with a wink. And we have nothing to add to that. Top quality bloodlines will always deliver, and the fancier from Grobbendonk has witnessed this season after season. Keep in mind has continued to deliver with a very small team, even after a pigeon theft in early 2017, which is truly impressive. The Cools pigeon family is so talented, that they continue to be one of the sprint champions in their region, despite almost their entire breeding loft have been taken away from them.